How an Actor Became One of the LGBTQ Community’s Premiere Matchmakers.
When Grant Wheaton moved to NYC as a young man to pursue his acting dreams, he didn’t expect to discover an unexpected talent: helping gay men find their future spouses.
Since 1985, Wheaton has helped over 10,000 single men along on their journey to find love via his company ManMate. We caught up with him to discover how he became and remained such a successful matchmaking guru for over 30 years.
MS: How did you discover you had a talent for matchmaking?
GW: Honestly, first I fell into it! In 1985, the year I created ManMate, clubs, bars and personal ads were the only outlets. At that time, my friend John mentioned the idea of running a dating service for gay men. I had a strong instinct that I’d be good at it. One month later-BAM!- we launched ManMate by handing out 10,000 profiles at the Gay Pride parade! After a year, John wanted to pursue other things, and I became the sole owner. It snowballed from there for 33 years up through the present.
I guess I discovered my talent for matchmaking with on-the-job training. I also now realize that I always had an instinct and interest in the process. When I was an actor for many years, I thought that if I left performing, I’d like to go into casting. I was drawn to the idea of matching performers with creative projects and the challenges and complexities involved in that process. It turns out that I did become a Casting Director…for Mr. Right! And, yes, the challenges and complexities are equally there.
MS: Why do you think you’ve been so successful for so long?
GW: I strongly believe in meaningful relationships and helping men find their way to each other. I’ve also been flexible and rolled with the punches and the trends through the evolutions of gay dating and relationships for the past 3+ decades. I wear many hats with ManMate and Dinners for 8, and that keeps me energized. In addition to my one-on-one matching and compatible dinner party seating, I’ve done workshops and classes for over 20 years, written advice columns and coached and consulted with men privately. My husband Dennis and I also wrote a book “The 7-Day Dating and Relationship Plan for Gay Men” which reached #3 on Amazon.
“Even after all these years, I’m still fascinated by what I do.” – Grant Wheaton
MS: In the age of apps, how is ManMate different/better than those dating services?
GW: Worlds away different. Virtually all the other services and apps are completely computerized with no personalized attention. There is also no middle man or screening process as you go along, so it’s your job to sort through lots of guys. That can be overwhelming and the ongoing rejections downright disheartening. The real motives of these men are often questionable. You’re hoping that each guy you meet will be honest, will follow through and doesn’t have a partner stashed at home. From what I’ve seen and heard, dishonesty and lack of follow-though are rampant through these methods. Also meeting men who aren’t single is quite common. If you want a hook-up or tryst, using one or more of these routes may be great. But I wouldn’t call them ‘dating services.
I’ve always kept ManMate one-on-one matching very personalized. That also goes for the Dinners for 8 dinner parties I seat weekly based on compatibility. I interview each client and complete a thorough profile with him in person. In this age of impersonal technology, that in itself is unique! When matching, I look from each member’s individual point of view: Where he is in his life right now? What are his values and preferences? What kind of man most floats his boat and holds the most promise for an eventual relationship? Maybe most important, it’s progressive. Based on our ongoing communications, together we continue to zero in on the men with the most relationship potential for him. It’s very clear that all the men I work with want an eventual relationship of substance, and often marriage. They also know my staff and I will work with them with that in mind.
“Each man I work with has different challenges and potentials and that keeps me engaged and also intrigued.” – Grant Wheaton
MS: How do you solve for chemistry when pairing up matches?
GW: Ahh, chemistry! We all know that chemistry between two people is very subjective. If we could bottle and sell the perfect potion to create mutual love chemistry, we would. But it’s amazing how, while continuing to communicate with my clients, I can often sense where there will be mutual chemistry. Of course it’s crucial that I I listen carefully to what each member says and expresses about himself and what he looks for. But I also read between the lines of what he’s saying. What is he really all about and what will work most beneficially for him? Then through the sheer experience of making tens of thousands of matches through the years and seating 100s of dinner parties compatibly, I’ve learn to trust my intuitive nature and instincts.
MS: What are the ingredients that make for a successful match?
GW: You’ve hit on precisely what my book is about. Of course having that fabulous but often elusive chemistry between them is key. But first off, both men need to be at a point in their lives where they have a favorable self-image and also are ready to prioritize an eventual relationship. Being honest, real and present with each other is very important. If you’re not responsible and respectful with each other, it probably won’t work out. I especially believe in the importance of extending to one another. So many gay men can choose and evaluate what they want in a partner, but they fail to bring their own best extending selves to him. Utilizing these aspects on an ongoing basis with each other goes a long way. Did I mention also being grateful for one another and having fun together?
“No one would join ManMate or Dinners for 8 to have a one-night stand. There are a zillion other outlets for that.” – Grant Wheaton
MS: Of all the couples you’ve worked with, which one stands out as the most successful?
GW: Each of the numerous couples I’ve introduced have a special dynamic duo quality all their own. This is the most gratifying aspect of what I do–introducing two men into a life together. I’ve had couples eventually get married everywhere from a church to a backyard. Whether married or not, I’m thrilled for all of them and consider them all successful.
There was a couple I introduced several years ago that I know is especially successful. Mark and Craig. The reason I know of their success is because, as the years go by, they keep in touch. Craig and Mark each used both of our venues–the one-on-ones and dinner parties. Shortly after I introduced them one-on-one, they put their memberships on hold. Three years later, they invited me to their wedding. They held it at The Park restaurant in Chelsea, where 3 years before they had had their first date! The wedding was beautifully filmed, and they asked me to be in scenes with them. They continually keep me updated on their lives–getting a dog together, buying a country home, etc. Perhaps most touching was what they wrote me: “Every day we say, ‘Thanks. Grant!'”
MS: Why would a person be a good fit for ManMate?
GW: Most of the men I work with are a good fit with us as they are at a point where the other areas of their lives are in good shape. They’d simply like to meet the right man with whom to share it. To be a good fit for us or any man, it’s important that he’s created a life of his own in which he’s reasonably happy. Desperation or the need to feel completed by another man isn’t going to bode well. Plus love and appreciation of one’s self is infectious. Bring that to the table with the capability to love and appreciate another man, and you’re in great shape.
“We’re not a Mr. Right Now service” – Grant Wheaton
MS: How do you screen for people who are looking more for Mr. Right Now than Mr. Right?
GW: I’m very clear in my initial meeting with each new client that we’re not a Mr. Right Now service. These days, there are a plethora of outlets for that anyway. Almost always, the men who come to me realize that they are looking for a relationship of more substance. If they aren’t, we won’t be a good fit.
MS: What can someone who comes to Man Mate expect to take from the experience (besides a partner, hopefully)?
GW: Through the years, many clients have told me that they’ve learned a lot about themselves through working with and being introduced by me. They may have met their partner through me, but even if they haven’t met Mr. Right yet, they’ve moved forward in their capabilities to have one. Since the beginning, I’ve always emphasized the importance of approaching meeting new prospective partners with the idea of developing a friendship. Yes, I know so many gay men have enough friends! But it’s the mindset of wanting to make a new friend that takes the pressure off of trying to immediately read whether a man is going to be relationship material and interacting with that in mind. And let’s face it: It’s pretty crucial that you and your future partner or husband are friends. Why not start with that focus?
MS: When is the time right for someone take the step into a matchmaking service?
GW: These days gay men look for assistance in all areas of their lives. In addition to having a personal trainer or someone to interior design their home, many men realize that they want the ongoing help and guidance of an accomplished personal matchmaker. I’d say happiness and fulfillment in their love life is understandably a strong priority in most gay men’s lives.
MS: How can someone who wants to try your services get started?
GW: He can get the ball rolling with me in a number of ways. On our website www.manmate.com there is an abbreviated profile he can fill out. We’ll get back to him shortly. He can also call us directly at 212-564-4025. If email is his preference, he can write me at [email protected].
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Last modified: July 25, 2019